The Top 20 Must-Visit Restaurants in Austin Texas
Here’s my list of the top 20 restaurants in Austin, Texas!
I love getting instagram messages from y’all asking for the must-visit restaurants in Austin. Sometimes they’re specific questions, and sometimes they’re vague, but in the last few months I’ve been getting a lot of this type of message:
And I totally get it! I would want to know the all-time best restaurants in Austin, too! When I’m visiting a new city, I get overwhelmed by too many options (best coffee, best tacos, best food trucks, best dog-friendly patios…gaahh!!) and I just want a simple list of the best restaurants.
So….boom. Here’s my list of the 20 must-visit restaurants in Austin! A couple things:
- This is obviously a HUGE undertaking, and I’m not claiming to be a renowned restaurant critic who has dined at EVERY restaurant 15 times and tasted every single thing on the menu. I’m just a twenty-something girl who has been living and eating in Austin for a long time. I spend my own money to dine in Austin, and these are the places that I love to go back to again and again and can wholeheartedly recommend to you.
- I’ve tried to include a wide variety of restaurants. For instance, Fonda San Miguel is my very favorite interior Mexican cuisine restaurant in Austin, so I didn’t include my second and third favorites (El Naranjo on Rainey Street, and La Condesa in downtown Austin.)
- It’s really hard to boil this down to 20! If I left off your all-time favorite restaurant, be sure to add it in the comments so readers can get your recommendations, too. Check out the end of the post where I added a few more that didn’t (but could have) made the top 20 list.
1. Emmer & Rye
I am obsessed with this restaurant for date night! I’ve dined here many times, and it has never failed to impress me.
Chef Kevin Fink’s grain-forward farm-to-table restaurant on Rainey Street was on Bon Appetit’s 50 Best New Restaurants in America list, and it has continued to rack up international awards. They source locally and work hard to use the entire animal/plant, which always makes me think…how in the WORLD do they make the food taste this fantastic while also producing hardly any waste?
One of the fun little perks to this place is the rolling dim sum cart, which was added into the service so Chef Fink could show off the freshest food that might only be available for a couple of days, thus not able to be added to the regular menu. A server will wheel the cart up to your table 3 times during the meal, offering little bites (usually $4, $6, or $8) that you can accept or reject.
Go here for: a splurge-worthy date night, excellent and attentive service, the BEST cacio e pepe in Austin.
WEBSITE | 51 Rainey St #110
No doubt you’ve heard of this popular sushi spot from James Beard Award-winning chef Tyson Cole, and you’ve possibly heard of its offshoots (Uchiko in North Austin, and Loro, the Asian Smokehouse Cole opened with pit master Aaron Franklin.) But have you splurged on a meal at Uchi yet?
They’ve been open since 2003, which is quite a feat in a city where restaurant turnover happens at a brisk pace. Uchi stays relevant by providing guests with a non-traditional approach to Japanese dining and the freshest sushi around. Each dish is a work of art, and this is one of the few places I’ve dined that forces me to sloooooow down to take in the fireworks of flavors and textures in every bite.
Go here for: a celebratory meal that you’ve made reservations for well in advance…and be prepared to put down some $$$. (It’s completely worth it, though.) Looking to save? Stop by the Sake Social Hour from 5-6:30 every day for specials on food and drink.
WEBSITE | 801 S Lamar Blvd
3. Fonda San Miguel
Fonda San Miguel was one of the first interior Mexican cuisine restaurants in the United States. It opened in 1973 at a time when big Tex-Mex chains were taking over America and the line between Tex-Mex and Mexican food was getting blurry.
Please arrive at this stunning north Austin restaurant very, very hungry. Their fresh ceviche, tacos al pastor in homemade tortillas, cochinita pibil, mole, and fun cocktails have me coming back again and again.
Go here for: margaritas and the best Mexican food in Austin in an upscale setting. Note: this is NOT a Tex-Mex restaurant! If you’re looking for that, go to Polvo’s or Matt’s El Rancho.
WEBSITE | 2330 W North Loop Blvd
4. Homeslice Pizza
If you’re visiting Austin, you MUST stop by Homeslice for a slice of authentic NY-style pizza! I’ve heard from many New York residents that these large, thin, foldable pizzas mimic the authentic NYC-style perfectly.
You can dine-in at Homeslice, or just go to the “More Home Slice” walk-up counter and get a slice to go.
Go here for: casual NYC-style pizzas, meatball sandwiches, and cold subs. Psst: this place is super Instagrammable!
WEBSITE | North and South Locations
Also see: your guide to the best pizza in Austin
5. Ramen Tatsu-ya
You can find ramen at dozens of places in Austin, but Ramen Tatsu-ya is still the best. They brought the good stuff, the type of ramen that you could previously only find in Japan and LA and New York, right here to Austin, Texas.
This thick, creamy soup of pork bone broth, noodles, chasu, ajitama, and add-your-own toppings is the labor of dozens of hours of love. Slurp your noddles loudly and enjoy the rich, decadent flavors at Austin’s most successful ramen shop .
Go here for: a quick lunch of ramen with friends. If it’s your first time, start with the Tonkotsu Original before branching out to try other menu items.
WEBSITE | multiple locations
6. Franklin Barbecue
Yes, the lines are crazy long… (Just how long? Click here to read my story of when I waited in line at Franklin BBQ.) But Franklin Barbecue is, by far, the most iconic Austin bbq spot, and waiting in line makes a great story.
So, is it worth it? That depends on how much you enjoy the touristy experience of waiting in line. The barbecue is, in fact, really reeeeaaally good. (Aaron Franklin did win a James Beard Award for best chef, after all!) Here are 5 other great bbq spots in Austin, but if you have the time in your schedule, try to squeeze in a visit to Franklin.
Go here for: a big lunch (they close when they run out of meat, which is usually just after lunch time.) Plan for a nap afterward.
WEBSITE | 900 E 11th St
7. Odd Duck
There are a couple dozen great farm-to-table restaurants in Austin that I could recommend to you, but Odd Duck was at the forefront of the movement, operating out of a little food truck in 2009 that only served food made from ingredients from local farmers.
The gorgeous brick-and-mortar rendition of Odd Duck opened with a bang in 2013, and it’s still one of Austin’s favorite places to enjoy small plates of locally sourced ingredients. They serve the food on mismatched vintage flatware, and this is one of my favorite dinner and brunch restaurants in the whole city.
Go here for: casual happy hour bites, a big fancy dinner, or a scrumptious Sunday morning brunch.
WEBSITE | 1201 S Lamar Blvd
8. Valentina’s Tex-Mex BBQ
Trust me, you’ve never tasted ANYTHING like this! Valentina’s took two of the greatest food groups in Texas (melt-in-your-mouth smoked barbecue and rich, salty Tex-Mex food) and somehow managed to be the BEST at both of them, combining them into one awesome food trailer.
Take one of those thick, flour-dusted, scratch-made tortillas and fill it up with brisket or pulled pork, charro beans, and tomato-serrano salsa; alternate bites of that with scoops of corn tortilla chips dunked in brisket quest. Your taste buds will thank you.
Go here for: breakfast tacos (some of the best in the city, and they start serving them at 7:30 am) or a big ol’ lunch of bbq and tacos.
WEBSITE | 11500 Manchaca Rd
Lenoir is a small restaurant that offers “hot weather food,” which is food that is made to be grown, prepared, and eaten in Texas climates. You’ll find a lot of local meat and produce, natural wines, and Mediterranean influences.
The interior of this restaurant only seats about 25 people, so make reservations in advance. Or, head to the backyard wine garden (one of my very favorite spots in the city!) to enjoy the full menu and happy hour prices on bottles of wine.
Go here for: pre-dinner drinks in the backyard wine garden, or a lovely special-occasion date night meal.
WEBSITE | 1807 S First St
Also see: the ultimate Austin bucket list
10. Dai Due
Similar to Lenoir, Dai Due is offering something so incredibly unique, you’ll be hard-pressed to find another restaurant in Austin that’s even similar. Chef Jesse Griffiths is a man who has been hunting for dozens of years; he’s passionate about using strictly Texas ingredients, which means you’ll find all sorts of unique items like wild game and foraged items.
Everything (even the beer and wine) is from Texas; by eating at Dai Due, you’re supporting the well-being of local farmers and ranchers. Ooh, and their Wagyu burger (pictured above) is INSANELY good. It’s only available on Tuesday nights.
Go here for: a memorable dinner of delicious food you might not be able to find anywhere else. Keep an open mind as you’re looking through the menu.
WEBSITE | 2406 Manor Rd
11. Fresa’s Grilled Chicken
I know, grilled chicken doesn’t sound all that exciting… But this South First Street restaurant, with its giant outdoor creekside patio, shaded dining, bright prickly pear margaritas, and scrumptious carbon-grilled chicken tacos is always buzzing with activity because it is worth. a. visit.
If it’s a beautiful day in Austin, snag a seat outdoors and order chips and queso, margaritas, and big plates of grilled chicken, sweet potatoes, and yummy grilled veggies. Also, weird but true: they make their own ice cream and it’s some of the best in town.
Go here for: a big, casual group dinner with friends and family.
WEBSITE | 1703 S First St
I always have to comment on the location first, because it’s so cool: Launderette is in a renovated laundromat/gas station! It doesn’t get much quirkier than that. It was one of Food & Wine’s 2016 Restaurants of the Year, and it snagged a James Beard Award finalist spot in 2016.
Eat here if you’re craving American food: they have one of the best burgers in Austin, a killer brick chicken, raw oysters, and all sorts of lovely snacky bits like beet hummus, fried shrimp, and crab and avocado toast. And DO NOT skip dessert! Chef Laura Sawicki’s pastries and beautifully plated desserts (and birthday cake ice cream sandwich) will alter your world.
Go here for: I recommend Launderette for two occasions: a big, leisurely lunch on their outdoor patio, or a nice seated special occasional diner.
WEBSITE | 2115 Holly St
13. Via 313
In addition to Homeslice (number 4), Via 313 is the other pizza place that you should definitely visit during your stay in Austin! This is a completely different type of pizza, though; while Homeslice offers thin-crust, round, New York-style pies, Via 313 makes rectangular deep dish Detroit-style pizzas. Thick crust with a crunchy shell and soft interior, loads of melty cheese, and tomato sauce on top. Sooo addicting and totally instagrammable.
Go here for: a casual lunch or dinner at the brick-and-mortar, or a late night bite at the Via 313 trailer parked in the back of Rainey Street beer bar Craft Pride.
WEBSITE | multiple locations
Sam Hellman-Mass, one of the founders of Odd Duck, created this gorgeous masa-based Mexican restaurant in East Austin and it has taken our city by storm! Eater called it one of the 18 Best New Restaurants in America, and Bon Appetit put it on their list of 50 Best New Restaurants in America
The corn tortillas are made through the process of nixtimillization (where corn is soaked in an alkaline solution and hulled), then ground into masa and made into some of the softest, tastiest tortillas you’ve ever tried.
Go here for: One of my favorite ways to dine at Suerte is on a double date, because the small plates are good to share. We order a bunch of food for the table and enjoy a memorable dinner of food and drinks. Another fun time to go is for the “Lucky Hour” for some cheap bites before dinner if you’d just like to taste a few items.
WEBSITE | 1800 E 6th St
Justine’s Brasserie isn’t on many tourist’s lists, and I think that’s because it’s just a little bit out of the way in East Austin to be visible. You have to know what you’re looking for, but once you find this little gem and start indulging in late-night French food, you’ll be so happy you drove the extra 5 minutes.
Justine’s is a vibe. It is the sexiest restaurant I can think of, and it would make an excellent romantic date night to impress someone (think: second or third date, maybe?). I love the classic French onion soup made with homemade stock, and the moules frites with extra French bread to soak up all the buttery goodness.
Go here for: a romantic date night of French food and wine, and very late-night eats.
WEBSITE | 4710 E 5th St
16. Soursop Food Truck
If you just have time to visit one food truck in Austin, head to Soursop for creative Pan-Asian fare paired with craft beer from St. Elmo Brewery, where this food truck is parked.
The SopBurger is superdeluxe indulgent: two fresh ground patties, adobo glaze, achara special sauce, swiss cheese, bacon fat roasted onions, shoestring potatoes. YUM. I also love the Hot Gai chicken sandwich, Sambal Wings, and the Pho-Tine, a take on classic Poutine with their own Asian twist.
Go here for: a casual food truck + brewery dinner with friends.
WEBSITE | 440 E St Elmo Rd
17. Kemuri Tatsu-ya
This is a Texas Izakaya from the Ramen Tatsu-ya team, and it WOWS me every time! I love taking guests here because the food is so incredibly unique and memorable. If you want a really fun restaurant experience in Austin, book a reservation at Kemuri.
The meat-centric plates have Texas and Japanese influences. Think: Tokyo street corn, broccoli cheese tofu, brisket with kemuri bbq sauce, and BBQ tsukemen ramen. Oh, and the cocktails here are served in crazy fun drinkware!
Go here for: a fun night out with friends who enjoy tasting adventurous bites and instagramming their food as much as you do.
WEBSITE | 2713 E 2nd St
They’ve been around for a long time and now have locations all over Texas, but if you’re visiting Austin and want to try some of the tastiest tacos that originated in our town, head to a TacoDeli location.
(Psst: their breakfast tacos are also available in almost any coffee shop in town, but they’re pre-made and the tortillas get a little gluey. For the best experience, go to TacoDeli and get a few freshly-made tacos.)
Go here for: breakfast tacos (order the Otto + add egg) or lunch (the tacos and salads are both awesome!) I personally don’t love the queso here…head to Torchy’s Tacos for that!
WEBSITE | multiple locations
19. Elizabeth Street Cafe
This is truly one of the most instagrammable spots in Austin; I think it’s worth popping into this beautiful French Vietnamese restaurant even if you just want to grab a couple macarons or croissants to go. Of course, if you can stop by for a leisurely breakfast Bahn Mi or a lunchtime bowl of Pho, even better.
Go here for: a breakfast/lunch date with your girlfriend who enjoys beautiful aesthetics. Breakfast is available every day of the week, so it’s a great bet if you want a brunch-like experience on a random weekday morning.
WEBSITE | 1501 S First St
Also see: top 10 things to do in Austin Texas
20. Mattie’s at Green Pastures
Mattie’s is the restaurant at the historic Faulk family mansion, a large South Austin farmhouse dating back to 1916. It’s situated on 23 acres of shaded, grassy lawn that’s home to free-roaming peacocks (hello, dinner guests!)
This elevated southern food could stand alone, but it’s enhanced by the magical surrounding. Seriously…stepping into Mattie’s feels like you’re entering a fairy land! Order the Mattie’s Fried Chicken, the pimento cheese, and definitely an order of the buttermilk biscuits.
Go here for: a lazy southern Sunday brunch, happy hour drinks on the patio, or a celebratory dinner with the family.
WEBSITE | 811 W Live Oak St
It’s impossible to confidently pare this down to 20 restaurants because there are SO many great spots to eat in this ever-evolving city. My hope is that this just gets you started in exploring the many awesome restaurants in Austin. And, just in case you’re someone who wants more choices instead of fewer, here are a few more places that could have made the list:
Bar Peached // cocktail-focused, Asian comfort food
Intero // family-owned Italian
Easy Tiger // sandwiches, sausages, beer garden
Il Brutto // Italian with large outdoor patio
El Naranjo // interior Mexican
La Condesa // upscale modern Mexican
Olamaie // elevated southern food
Bufalina // neapolitan pizza
June’s All Day // wine bar and American food
Perla’s // upscale coastal seafood
Hopfields // French gastropub
Foreign and Domestic // farm-to-table
Torchy’s // tacos, but go for the queso
Lucky Robot // Tokyo street food
ABGB // pizza + beer
Pinthouse Pizza // pizza + beer
T22 // Nashville hot chicken